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Ron DeSantis, Travis Hutson, Paul Renner pitch to Flagler Republicans

Flagler County Republicans in Palm Coast Wednesday evening got a triple dose of Republican candidates.

State Representative Paul Renner, State Senator Travis Hutson, and Senate candidate (and local Congressman) Ron DeSantis all made their case to an appreciative crowd of about 100 people at the Flagler County Republican Club, housed this evening at the Palm Coast Community Center.

To a man, they delivered a limited government message.


DeSantis led off in his rapid fire cadence, talking about introductions, and how, when he threw out the first pitch at a baseball game, the PA announcer read the full-length version of his bio.

DeSantis reared back, threw a pitch… and the announcer was reading the whole time.

From there, DeSantis went into topics that resonated with the crowd, including Hillary Clinton‘s cavalier use of a “private email server” set up outside proper channels.

DeSantis’ take: it was a way around the FOIA Act and Congressional scrutiny.

“She was more interested in protecting herself from accountability… someone who makes that kind of decision cannot be Commander in Chief.”

DeSantis said that he’d been urging Loretta Lynch to appoint a special counsel, but so far he has been frustrated.

This led him to the hypothetical of a Clinton indictment, and speculation that “Biden would be a better candidate.”

From there, DeSantis talked about Lois Lerner’s emails, and asked the rhetorical question: if you destroyed documents and emails, would you be able to get away with it?

Scattered nos filled the room. DeSantis, from there, talked about how he “declined a Congressional pension,” an example of how he didn’t want to be “part of the club.”

That’s not true of all Republicans.

“I don’t know if they catch Potomac Fever or whatever, but a lot of times they don’t do what they said they were going to do.”

From there, DeSantis discussed the encroachment of Islamic Jihad, saying “you have go to back several hundred years” to find an analogue.

However, the Obama administration isn’t willing to address the threat for what it is.

DeSantis talked, for some minutes, in stark black and white terms about the Jihadi threat, saying that “mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent” for America’s enemies.

“I don’t think you are ever going to be able to fight international jihad if you are funding the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

Border control: another issue that DeSantis hit. As well: “anemic economic growth” driven by “bureaucracies” choking free enterprise with red tape.

DeSantis closed by discussing “the damage that has been done to the Constitution” by the Obama administration, a move away from the “rule of law.”

Half history lesson, half hearkening to Reaganite principles, DeSantis’ speech was a classic conservative message.

“2016 is an important Constitutional moment,” DeSantis said, and to that end, he’s “doing all I can, going around the state and delivering the message.”

After closing, DeSantis fielded audience questions, including about vetting refugees.

“You know you can’t vet, because what are you going to do? Call the Damascus police department and ask ‘is this guy all right’?”

While he supports accepting refugees in theory, in practice there have to be safeguards protecting Americans’ safety, DeSantis said, noting that Somali refugees of the 1990s have since become the leading domestic source of ISIS fighters.

“You’ve got to be safe, not sorry on this issue.”

Asked about the budget and debt, DeSantis noted that a $20T debt will be likely by the end of 2017.

“In 2000, I think we had about $5.6T in debt… you’ve had Republicans, Democrats, it’s been both parties folks, that’s the reality of it.”

One thing he doesn’t want to cut: the military, which is the “core function” of the federal government.

Eligible for cuts: “Obama’s pet projects.”

“The benefit that we get from having a strong defense is that a lot of times things don’t bubble to the surface” because “America’s on the watch.”

Flagler GOP Chair Wes Priest gave his endorsement.

“I like this guy,” Priest said, “and his wife is cute though.”


Priest introduced Hutson next, mentioning that Hutson, also, has a cute wife.

Hutson noted that when “Paul and I ran for a special election, we didn’t know what we were signing up for,” given the special sessions.

From there, Hutson recounted the legislative session, noting $557 million in tax cuts, including the manufacturing equipment tax that was a priority of Governor Scott’s.

Hutson also discussed the school choice bill that allows children to go to any school in the state of Florida.

“If there’s an opening and you can afford to take your child there,” Hutson said, “we’re not going to hold them back because of the zip code.”

Hutson noted his 50% passage rate on bills this session, citing legislation cutting red tape on hunting and fishing licenses, the FWC Inspection Bill (which allows one routine inspection before “slapping a sticker on your boat), and EBT card legislation that precludes the “black market” that has allowed drug dealers to take EBT cards in exchange for narcotics.

“We’re going to make them do 20 hours community service at a food bank or community kitchen,” Hutson said.

Then, Hutson addressed redistricting.

“Our Republican majority could be in jeopardy,” Hutson said, thanks to an unelected group of left wing citizens and the courts.

“What happened here is a group of citizens… drew a map and a judge said this is law,” Hutson said, calling the move “unconstitutional.”

Hutson noted that he wanted to term-limit the Supreme Court, and vowed to fight to keep the GOP majority… even as a redshirt freshman.

Hutson, up for election and currently unopposed, hopes it “stays that way.”

But there are no guarantees.

Among the questions Hutson took from the audience: a question about homelessness in Flagler, a consequence of 2008.

“Before, you used to see people who lost their way as individuals.”

“Now,” Hutson said, “it’s families,” including military families and families racked by substance abuse.

“I think we spend too much money locking people up and throwing away the key, who need help,” Hutson said, including people plagued by mental illness.

Priest offered an endorsement of Hutson, saying that he’s local and knows the issues.


Paul Renner closed the session. Renner, who ran from Jacksonville in 2014, has seamlessly become part of the Flagler fabric.

“When Travis ran for Senate,” Priest said, “Paul stepped in and ran for office.”

And, of course, Renner is up for re-election.

Renner led off with a quip.

“You know I was in the military because of my lousy haircut,” Renner said, adding that his wife is “cute too,” before “saying a couple of words about our politics generally.”

“We need to lecture less and listen more,” Renner said, as the voters “are trying to say something, especially on a national level.”

“Our country… has become of, by, and for a governing elite… serving themselves… picking winners and losers,” Renner said, calling for “more freedom” and “less government intrusion.”

“The more we can move government decisions down to the lowest possible level, we need to do it,” Renner continued, citing Common Core as a priority.

Luckily, he said, the GOP is the strongest it’s been since the 1920s… and conservatism is on the march as well, even if the “national media” discounts that.

Renner, as Hutson did, gave his own take on the legislative session, citing successes, including a bill about transparency in health care, which allows people to “comparatively shop for health care.”

Renner also cited work the Veterans Affairs Committee did for veterans, including expediting hiring of Navy trained firefighters, and “looking at other skill sets our veterans have to make Florida the most veteran friendly state.”

Another success: a review of someone involuntarily committed, as in by the Baker Act, on a yearly basis to ensure that the commitment is still warranted.

And still another: a review of civil forfeiture laws, to stymie abuse of the process, which often results in people having assets seized before they are found guilty.

An odd question, on chemtrails, came at the end from an audience member.

“You’re going to have to educate me on that,” Renner said diplomatically.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at

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